It’s that time of year again, time to make the annual family calendar using iPhoto. Every year I learn something new about the best way to do this. I couldn’t have been more pleased when Apple decided to let us use the same database for both Aperture and iPhoto so I don’t have to copy photos from one to the other to make my calendar. My process is to keyword photos with calendar_2015 as I scroll through all photos from 2014 in Aperture and then make a smart album for that keyword. That makes it easy to open up iPhoto, navigate to the smart album and create my calendar from there.
After I spend a few hours arranging them all, I print the whole thing to PDF and send it off to Steve and my kids to see if they have any objections or would like to add in any different photos. Here’s where this year’s learning came in. The calendar when printed to PDF is over 200MB! Even with Apple’s new Mail Drop service that lets you email giant files that end up as links, that seemed just a tad overboard for my needs.
A few years back someone tipped me off to the cool option in Apple’s Preview app that lets you save your PDFs and other documents to a lower quality. If you open up a document in Preview, simply choose Save As, and under the completely unintuitive pulldown entitled Quartz Filter, you can choose from several options, one of which is Reduce File Size. Hot dogs, that sounds just like what I needed.
I opened my newly reduced file and instead of 200MB, it was only 945KB. Awesome, right? Wrong! I opened it and the images looked positively dreadful. I couldn’t possibly send the PDF out this way. I went hunting to try and find a way to change the behavior to create something maybe in between 200MB and less than 1MB.
I came across a Mac OS X Hints forum on Macworld.com with a post by someone identified only as zpjet that had exactly the answer I was looking for posted back in 2012. I followed the link on the name but Macworld hasn’t kept that part of the site up any longer so I wasn’t able to identify the author to give credit. Then I had an idea, maybe zpjet had kept their name when Twitter came out. Sure enough I found Josef Habr on Twitter @zpjet. Ok, now that I’ve given Josef credit, let me tell you about his clever solution.
Josef figured out that the Quartz filters are stored in the System/Library/Filters directory. He opened up the one entitled “Reduce File Size” and found the parameters inside the text file to set the compression quality and the maximum image size. He made three new files by copying the original, and fiddled with the settings until he found values that would create a good, better, and best option. He also figured out where in the text file the name was stored for the menu choice within preview. He modified that name for each file so he could tell them apart. He documented the compression quality numbers and the image size maximum all in the forum post. I’m reproducing his post right here on podfeet.com just in case MacWorld shuts down the discussion forum.
- Good: 0.25
- Better: 0.5
- Best: 0.75
- 842 (that’s A4 at 72dpi)
- 1684 (A4 at 144dpi)
- 3508 (A4 at 300dpi)
I decided that this called out for a Clarify tutorial so you can see where all of these values go and especially the Name Key value. I made the three extra files as Josef suggested, and put copies back in the Filters folder. I opened up my Calendar and sure enough I now have good, better and best versions of the Quartz filter for Reduce File Size. Remember my original was 200MB, the good one is 2.5MB and the images look a bit fuzzy, the Better one is 7.7MB and the images look just fine for this purpose, while the Best one looks a smidge better at 9.8MB.
In the shownotes I put a screenshot of the same image five times. The default Preview resize, then good, better and best according to Josef’s research, and then finally the giant 200MB file version that came out of iPhoto. To be honest, the better or best picture is pretty indistinguishable to my eyes vs. the 200MB version.
The great thing about Josef’s tip is that you an mess with the parameters yourself and see what works for you. I wrote to Josef on Twitter and we had a nice chat. He kind of burst my bubble when he pointed out that someone back in the forum had pointed out that you don’t have to edit the text files – you can change the default settings for Reduce File Size inside the Color Sync Utility. This is a better way to do it because the filters will be stored in your user Library instead of the System Library. If you upgrade your OS, you won’t lose your filters.
I took a look at the Color Sync app and sure enough you can duplicate the original Reduce File Size filter, rename it, change the default settings to Josef’s recommendations or to anything you like. Before using Color Sync, my user Library did not have a Filters folder, but after I duplicated one inside Color Sync I did have the Filters folder in my user Library.
I appreciate that Josef figured out some good settings to use as a starting point and even more that he pointed me to an easier way to do it than editing the System-level filters with a text file.
Of course I decided to make a Clarify tutorial on this but many thanks to Josef for figuring this out and making some recommendations. You can find his website at http://macspeaks.com/. MacSpeaks is a cool utility that takes text input and pronounces it in different languages and voices. I actually used it already – asking Josef how to pronounce his name with a Czechoslovakian accent!
I put a link in the show notes to the Clarify tutorial on how to do this yourself, or you can look for it under Mac Tutorials in the left side bar.